Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mind Over Machine

"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I'm half crazy all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage. But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two." --HAL, 2001: A Space Odyssey

My old wooden chess board, the one I learned to play on so long ago, is now hanging up on the wall; the carved wooden pieces, a jumble in their box. It sometimes amazes me, the amount of people I come across who never learned to play. Teaching a human mind to play reasonably well takes a keen interest and a lot of practice. A modern computer however, loaded with the right programming, can play at almost grandmaster level without raising a sweat.

Walking around rather bored at the shops yesterday, I thought for a moment that it might be a good idea to get one of those electronic chessboards so that I wouldn't have to bug someone else every time I wanted to have a game or to practice a bit. I then thought it would perhaps be better to get some kind of portable LCD chess game, so that I could carry it around with me, but didn't even know if they even made such a thing.

About five minutes later, after my mind had wandered onto other things, I walked into Tandy Electronics and there, staring me in the face, was an electronic chessboard with a removable docking unit. The perfect combination. Not all that hard to beat on some of its lower levels, though I seem to just now be facing a challenge.

Watching the first part of the Stanley Kubrick documentary A Life In Pictures, I notice him often portrayed as a chess player, both literally as well as in his personality and the way he shoots his films. A great scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey is when HAL plays chess with Frank, defeating him convincingly. What's interesting is that unlike the brute force approach utilised by today's top chess playing computers, HAL's thought patterns seem almost "human". He even conveys his enjoyment of the game, though it could all just be part of his programming.

"Thankyou for a very enjoyable game"


Blogger sketchgrrl said...

I created a blog a month ago, having had a website (an online magazine) for four years. I just discovered BlogExplosion and impulsively signed up, not expecting much. I have now seen two of the blogs at BE, Flat Grapefruit and yours and I'm blown away by the high quality of writing, intellect and soulfulness. In the late 1980s I found myself working as a freelance legal proofreader on the midnight shift in various Manhattan corporate lawfirms in highrise offices with expensive art on their walls. The work was easy and allowed my mind to wander. The best part of the job was that my fellow freelance proofreaders were all creative types like me, the people I like best to hang out with. And as a relative newbie to the blogosphere (which I had resisted joining for too long), I see now that the people I am most sympatico with are here. It's really nice to make your acquaintance!


5/12/2005 06:11:00 pm  
Blogger Joshua said...

Hi sketchgrrl! Thanks for the comments.

In the late 1980's I would have still been doing my ABCs :)

I would love to be a proofreader, but it would have to be something that I like to read.

5/13/2005 05:18:00 pm  
Blogger sketchgrrl said...

Whoops--I didn't mean to reveal that I was a different generation from you! I never reveal my age, because of rampant ageism! I think being on the same wavelength as another person has more to do with a person's soul than their age, anyway.

5/14/2005 08:42:00 am  
Blogger sketchgrrl said...

As for my having worked as a freelance legal proofreader, the stuff we were reading was deadly dull to be sure! But it paid a lot better than anything that would have been interesting to read. The thing was, it was really mindless work. We were able to have fun conversations with each other while we were proofreading! So it was like getting paid to have fun conversations. We always worked in teams.

5/14/2005 08:45:00 am  

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